Gov. Hogan vetoes transportation bill
EASTON — Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Friday, April 1, he had vetoed a major transportation bill lawmakers had passed a day earlier. Republicans say Democrats hurried the bill through the legislative process.
In a nearly two-and-a-half page letter, the Republican governor outlined his concerns with the legislation, which requires the Maryland Department of Transportation to devise a scoring system to rank and choose road and transit projects that increase capacity and with a total cost that exceeds $5 million.
“This regrettable legislation exemplifies the worst kind of policymaking and it is not in the best interest of Maryland taxpayers,” Hogan wrote.
But there is enough time left in Maryland’s 90-day session, which ends Monday, April 11, for Democrats to override Hogan’s veto.
Bills passed with more than six days left in a legislative session must be vetoed by the governor within six days, giving the legislature an opportunity to override the veto during that session.
Veto overrides require the votes of three-fifths of the members of both the Senate and the House of Delegates, requiring 29 votes in the Senate and 85 votes in the House. The legislation passed both houses by one vote short of that super majority, with some lawmakers absent.
Much of Hogan’s concerns have been echoed by Republicans during House and Senate debates — partly that the process under the bill to choose major Mar yland State Highway Administration and Maryland Transit Authority projects diminishes the value of local input, and usurps the executive power to choose the projects.
The bill establishes nine goals under which major capital projects are to be scored and ranked. There is an exception to safety projects, such as improvements to a bridge.
The projects would be included by their rank into the draft Maryland Consolidated Transportation Program, which is the state’s plan for funding transportation projects and currently is developed by counties submitting their top projects for consideration by the transportation department.
The transportation secretary and governor, however, under the bill are allowed to fund a lower scoring project over a higher scoring project by submitting a written explanation.
Hogan wrote that his administration has taken a balanced approach to transportation, and has funded top priorities in ever y district expect for the Baltimore Red Line, which Republican lawmakers in debates said caused Democrats to retaliate by submitting the transportation bill this legislative session.
Hogan wrote the bill potentially puts major road, bridge and transit investments at risk across the state. He called the bill bad public policy, referencing a measure in the bill where safety — one of the nine goals in the bill — can count for only 11 percent of a project’s total score.
He also said the bill incentivizes counties to submit as many projects as possible to the department of transportation.
“For example, if Montgomery County had 50 transportation projects, the county would submit every project and most of these projects (transit and urban focused) would generally score higher than projects in other parts of the State because of the population multiplier required under the bill,” the letter reads.
Hogan criticized the legislation as being written by an “outside, unknown bill drafter without inclusion of the expertise of the (Maryland Department of Transportation).”
“In a worrying preview of what could happen in future years, this bill was constructed in a secretive and haphazard manner with enormous input from political pressure groups but with no real thought and no meaningful input from the Department of Transportation,” the letter reads.
Republicans said during debates in the Senate that the transportation department was never involved in the bill’s drafting process. But Democrats, including Senate President Mike Miller, said the department was asked and didn’t get involved.